Some people find the holiday season to be one of the best times of the year, and other people just find the whole season stressful. But however you celebrate, most people end up attending some parties, and many people host or attend gatherings with extended family.
These can often be somewhat noisy affairs, making for challenging listening environments for those who have hearing loss.
If you suffer from hearing loss, or will be interacting with someone who does, here are some tips for a successful, stress-free holiday gathering.
For people who have hearing loss:
Avoid “hearing fatigue”. If you’ve had hearing loss for a number of years, you know that keeping up, especially when there are multiple conversations going on at the same time, can wear you down after a while. Here are some strategies to avoid it over the holidays:
- Designate a quiet area for yourself;
- Don’t be afraid to excuse yourself to take a break;
- Offer to help out in the kitchen (or somewhere else where there are less people gathered).
Position yourself in a good spot. If one of your ears has stronger hearing than the other, decide on the optimal spot to sit during conversation in a room, or particularly, at the dinner table.
Consider purchasing products like a directional microphone. Many hearing aid manufacturers offer accessories that are designed to make life easier for those with hearing loss. Modern accessories like directional microphones send the sound wirelessly to the listener’s hearing aid, potentially improving comprehension.
Look at new hearing aids that are designed for noisy environments. Several manufacturers have introduced hearing aids with circuitry that’s specifically designed to improve understanding in noisy environments.
For people whose loved ones have hearing loss:
Friends and families of those who suffer from some level of hearing loss, from mild to profound, can keep a few things in mind to make it easier for their loved ones. Many of the tips are, in fact, the same things you should be doing in day-to-day life to accommodate and include people with hearing loss. Here are a few things to keep in mind over this busy holiday season.
Minimize extraneous background noise. A crowded environment is already a challenging listening environment for many people across all levels of hearing loss. Make it easier for them by keeping music, television, and any background noise you can to a minimum (or off completely.)
Get their attention before talking. This is a basic “rule” that applies in any setting — don’t launch into a conversation topic while the listener’s back is turned to you.
Make yourself visible when speaking. This includes removing any obstructions or distractions that make it more difficult to see your mouth – like chewing gum or food, or even facial hair that obstructs some part of the mouth.
DO speak clearly, but don’t yell and don’t overemphasize words. Not only is it more difficult to understand than regular, clear speech, it can potentially seem demeaning to the person with hearing loss.
Keep the room well-lit. A room with proper lighting makes it much easier for people with hearing loss to interpret subtle body language and non-verbal cues, so keep that in mind if you’re considering lighting some candles or ‘mood lighting.’
Keeping these pieces of advice in mind can make your holiday parties and gatherings more comfortable for everybody.